There were arguably more significant changes for search marketers during 2009 than in any previous year. However, most of these stories aren’t over yet. Staying abreast of all these issues will be essential to being competitive in the coming year.
Bing– Just when Apple’s brilliant and searing marketing schemes had convinced the world that there was nothing less sexy than Microsoft product, the software giant launched Bing – a bodacious, complex and visually stimulating search engine that users seem to like. The latest ComScore stats reveal Bing continuing to gain market share, at 10.3%. Bing continues to roll out a motherload of innoviative, addictive features such as Map Apps and Visual Search, and the Bing API. The company is also gradually releasing guidelines and information for Web publishers.
Google Personalized Search – After experimenting with Personalized Search for four years, the company made personalized search an opt-out service. Apart from the few who will opt-out of personalized search, no two people are experiencing Google Search in quite the same way. It remains to be seen how much this will change SEO strategies.
Real-Time Search – Rather than face the prospect of Twitter emerging as a major search engine competitor, Bing and Microsoft struck separate deals with the service to serve up real-time search results. In addition, both services struck a deal with Facebook to index portions of its service, prompting a surge of Facebook users adjusting their personal privacy settings.
Google PageRank Goes In-House – PageRank has long been at the core of Google’s complex ranking algorithm. The company went so far as to display PageRank scores for Web sites and display them prominently in its Google Tool Bar. Suddenly last year, the company changed course. It began telling Web publishers not to worry about PageRank, then made it impossible for Web publishers to use nofollow to determine how PageRank would be distributed. Finally the company stopped publishing PageRank in most of its toolbars altogether. Given the company’s push toward personalized search, it will be interesting to see whether the building blocks of PageRank stay intact behind the curtain.
News Industry Backlash – Both the Associated Press and Rupert Murdoch turned their back on Google this year, citing loopholes that allowed users to access paid content through the search engine and index content while contributing nothing in return. Murdoch is reportedly in negotiations for an exclusive deal with Bing. Exclusive content deals with the world’s major news industries might give Bing the advantage it needs to cut into Google’s market share.
Cross-Domain Canonical Tags – Canonical tags were developed as a way to for Web publishers to control which versions of content should be seen as the “original” version. This helped Google to determine which version to display prominently in search results. Now the tags have been modified to allow publishers with a single piece of content on multiple domains to use the tag as well. In some cases, Google is promoting use of the tags as a replacement for 301 redirects.
Death of the Traditional Search Engine – For years, Yahoo remained reasonably competitive with its aging keyword-based search engine, even as it watched Bay Area rival Google ratchet up both revenues and the complexity of its search algorithm. Even if Microsoft hadn’t acquired Yahoo this year – Bing is set to replace Yahoo’s back end in 2010 – the company has been bleeding market share all year. Given Yahoo Search’s lame-duck image, it will be interesting to see how long Bing waits to replace the front end as well.